That feedback got me thinking about the connection between “The Elephant In the Room” and “The Maxi Mentality. Maxi’s are coveted by companies large and small, yet marketing is struggling in the shopping center industry. Why is that? After giving that question quite a bit of through over the last weeks and discussing it with several colleagues, I began to see that “The Maxi Mentality” may be one of the keys to reviving marketing in our industry. So with thanks to those industry friends who reminded me, here’s “The Maxi Mentality” with a few key updates. It’s a way of thinking and marketing that lends itself to participating in the Maxi program – and to showing the value and worth of shopping center marketing. Here’s how you can develop your Maxi Mentality and at the same time show your owners the value of what you do:
Think MAXI First!
Maxi entries should not be an afterthought, they should be the beginning! When you are brainstorming your ideas and creating your marketing programs, think MAXI! Marketing professionals I know that are consistently MAXI finalists have one thing in common – they go in with the attitude that they are playing to win! It serves them well – after all the MAXI program recognizes excellence, and excellent programs are your goal, right? Not everyone can win and not every program turns out exactly as you expect it to, but if you start with the mentality that your program is “playing to win” you (and it) are much more likely to get there.
Maxi entries should also be something you believe in – heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears. I once attended a seminar given by that year’s Maxi Chairperson. During her presentation, someone in the group asked her how you should determine what you enter? Her response was, of course, that Maxi’s are about results. But she also pointed out that marketers that win Maxi’s have entered something they are passionate about. If you don’t believe in your program, why should the judges? She was right! My center had three finalist entries that year – and won a MAXI because of that advice! The program that won was called Mall Of Promise and we were not even sure we were going to enter it until we got that advice!
Update: With marketing budgets shrinking and owners wanting to see results generated for every penny, it is more important than ever that you are not only passionate about your programs but that you start the process for every one of them asking the question “What results to I expect this program to generate?”
Implement With MAXI In Mind!
One of the biggest mistakes I see on Maxi entries (including some of my own) is a failure to truly document the results. Great programs often go unrecognized for lack of documented results! So often, when we create a program, we are so focused on making it happen that we fail to think past the “getting it done” to the “proving it worked”. Unfortunately, this often leaves you with a great program that was a huge success and no way to document your results.
Implement with documentation in mind. Think about what it will take to document your results and implement accordingly. This is particularly important when you are relying on merchants or other parties to provide you with results. Need your merchants to track results – give them a tracking sheet when the promotion begins – not after it has already ended! They are much more likely keep up as they go. Better yet, tell them when they agree to participate that you’ll need results and ask for their help before the program even starts!
At one center I was at, we started a community service effort to collect donations for victims of Hurricane Floyd. One third of our state was literally under water and there were no donation collection sites in our area. We partnered with the Salvation Army and opened our doors as a donation site. Within 24 hours we went from filling 14 foot moving vans to filling dump trucks, to filling semi trucks! It was an incredible effort – at one point donations blocked an entrance to the mall! When all was said and done, in 13 days we sent 1 van, 2 dump trucks, and 7 semi trucks to Flood Relief centers – and had no way to document the value of those donations. Thankfully, our area food bank was able to help us value the donations after the fact, but our entry was not as strong as it could have been as a result. It was a finalist, but it did not win. Just a bit more thought on the front end (logging donations as they came in, arranging with the Salvation Army to value the donations, etc.) and the entry may have done better!
Update: Documentation is even more critical than ever. I recently was discussing a community service program with a senior level management associate from the shopping center industry. I was asked about the results and before I could even answer the comment “well I guess you really don’t have any tangible results since it was a community program” was made. My immediate response was, “ I beg to differ” followed by a detailed account of the results from the program in terms of publicity generated, the increases in market share during the program, tangible benefits to the community, center perception audit results, etc. He was stunned that I had those results from a community service program and our profession as a whole needs to do a better job of “stunning” those who do not truly understand and appreciate what we do.
Don’t Forget The Small Stuff
I’ll never forget my first Maxi entry. It was in the Sales & Merchandising category. The center was small and located in a small market. Out-shopping to a nearby large city was an issue. We created a program for the Spring Fashion selling season aimed at keeping shoppers home. It was very simple – shoppers could register at participating stores to win a $1500 shopping spree. We used creative visual merchandising and collaterals – and a catch! You had to be present at the Spring Fashion Show to win! In this small town, that kind of prize was a big incentive to stay home! The results were stellar – merchant participation was high, a staggering percentage of the market population entered the contest, sales jumped considerably, and more than 1500 people attended the fashion show! I wasn’t going to enter the program – it was nothing new and different. My corporate marketing director made me enter it.
Well, guess what – that entry became a finalist! I was stunned – I believe I dropped the phone when they called to tell me it was a finalist. Conference was in New Orleans that year and I was just happy to be going. Nobody in the theater was more stunned when that program won a MERIT than me! A new twist on a tried and true event or program can be a great entry – even if the program is just a small little something that happened to work in a big way for your center! For our small center in our small market, a fashion program that had “been done” in other larger markets was something new and different!
Update: Never under estimate the value of the “small stuff”. I can’t tell you how many shopping center marketers I have spoken to over the years who shrug off the results of something they see as small and insignificant. If you don’t tell people about them who will? One (or many) small programs can produce fantastic results.
Believe In Yourself – And Your Center
Perhaps the most important part of the “Maxi Mentality” is your belief that you can do it! I know of so many fantastic marketing programs that have never even seen the Maxi competition because the Marketing Director didn’t believe that they could complete the entry, didn’t believe the program was good enough, or thought “Why bother, I could never win.” I have a friend in this industry who is one of the most creative and impressive marketing professionals I know. She came to the shopping center world from another industry. I remember her telling a group of other marketing directors about a wonderful community service program she had done. We all thought the program was outstanding and asked her if she was going to enter it? Her response was “Do you think I should?” I can tell you without a doubt – “YES YOU SHOULD!” (Her program was a finalist that year!)
Update: Here is where I used to say, that Call For Entries book is full of rules and can be quite intimidating and it’s a lot of work to put that black three ring binder together.
Well, with the new online system it’s not so difficult. I did my last entry in three days and if you are documenting your program along the way (come on, we all know we should be) uploading all of your files is a snap. But here’s what has not changed: you will be a stronger, more effective marketer for having done it – regardless of whether or not your entry wins. And the belief you have in yourself, your center, and your programs is contagious!
The Maxi Mentality is more important than ever and gives shopping center professionals an opportunity to start that conversation about the value of marketing to our industry. So go ahead, take some time and invest in yourself! Apply some DIY attitude to yourself and take some time to develop your “Maxi Mentality”. Take a look at your work from the past 18 months and if you have something great - enter! And be sure to send your regional marketing director, corporate director, or even the president of your company a short summary of your results that outlines the value your program generated. Go ahead, do it for yourself!